At the White Oak Library District, I helped work on my library’s district wide strategic plan. The one place I knew we were failing our patrons was with families who were learning English as a second language. We always talk about ways to better serve our patrons in this aspect but never really got around to doing anything. Once the plan was released we finally started making an effort.  Seeing the families coming in for conversation clubs, I noticed the children and teens were always left behind. The teen services staff quickly realized the teens needed something of their own, as a way to learn and to help their family members learn. We thought about how language is learned and realized that playing games increases language comprehension skills.  Games add an extra component of fun to learning, making it active learning. We plan to buy Scrabble, Bananagrams, Upwords, Scrabble Slam, Scattergories, Catch Phrase, Taboo, Balderdash, Jenga, Apples to Apples, Anomia and Superfight!. These games will become a circulating collection that families can borrow. We hope it will help them bond, learn, and play together.

It is always hard to find a way to tell our library users about all the services we have for them. We plan to launch the collection during Teen Read Week and have a special game night kick-off program at all three of the branches called “Do you Speak Game?” The purpose of game night is to introduce our patrons to the game collection and use it as an opportunity to teach patrons how to play the games.

We’re writing a press release for the local papers to promote the collection and game night in the community.  We’re also inviting our Conversation Clubs and ESL/ELL groups from the area to game night to help them to learn more about the services that we provide and teach them about the new game collection. We’ll be promoting this as a family activity because it will encourage the teens to participate in the Conversation Clubs and also have signs in the school libraries in our local high schools.

We’re trying to continue to improve library services, so we plan to have informal conversations with attendees to gauge their reaction and initial impressions of the games and program, as well as paper surveys. These surveys will be short, between 5-7 questions, and will be available in English, Spanish, and Polish, as these are the most representative languages in our communities.  We hope this collection will help our patrons improve their language skills. We have to keep going on to help all our patrons and make a difference in their lives.

Cindy Shutts is a Teen Services Librarian at the White Oaks Library District.

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